Rest In Peace Ye Olde Statistician

Rest In Peace Ye Olde Statistician


Michael Francis Flynn, long known to friends of the blog as Ye Olde Statistician, or just YOS, died Saturday morning. God speed him, God rest him, God bless him. (Thanks to Anon for the news and picture above.)

Mike was born in 1947 and, as his charming Wiki entry says, he “died at his childhood home on 30 September 2023.” Which was in Easton, Pennsylvania. Not a bad way to go.

From an email from Anon:

His daughter posted the news on Facebook. Here is what she said, “Hello family, friends & fans of Michael Flynn. This is his daughter Sara. I’m sorry to tell you that my father passed away this morning. He was sleeping peacefully in the childhood home that he loved, the home his father built. We will share more details when we have them. Thank you.”

Have you read any of his sci-fi—like Eifelheim? Mike could write.

So well that he teamed up with masters Jerry Pournelle and Larry Niven to write the satire Fallen Angels.

He has a new novel that will be out in May next year (!): In the Belly of the Whale. Let’s hope they move the date up.

YOS had his own blog, of course, and we have linked to it many times. Most recently in the article, “Reconciling Mike Flynn & Fr Ripperger On Evolution: Creation or Completion of New Essences?” Do not miss his series “The Great Ptolemaic Smackdown“—from which I had the idea he was expanding into a book. If this is so, I hope his family manages to publish it.

I say nothing more about these, because I am sure others will do a far better job. Even YOS himself, as in this revealing interview. Let’s instead take a look at YOS’s brilliant comments.

When I saw YOS had taken hold of a conversation in a post, I would often close my eyes to the post for a day or two until the comments quieted down, then I’d go back and read YOS’s all at once. I learned a great deal from him, especially when I made mistakes.

You use the blog’s search function for “Ye Olde Statistician“, and that gives some hits, but not, alas, from the comments. Since I have access to the dashboard I can search comments—of which YOS made thousands. I don’t know of a way to open that up to everybody, which is a pity, since you have to find posts in which YOS would take an interest—theology and the philosophy of evidence, usually—and then search the comments for his name.

Or you can try the woke search engine using the term in quotes, like this. Works to a reasonable extent. For no good reason I can discern, the first result (for me, anyway) is his comment on the post “Work Of A Young Set Theorist“. From ten years ago.

Since there are thousands of comments, there’s no way I can do justice to YOS’s contributions. Except to note they were monumental.

His first appearance was back in 2012 from a post on a book review from yet another author who argues that if only people knew they could not make choices they would make better choices. Here is his first comment, pithy and packed:

The will is an appetite or desire for products of the intellect. (Similar to the emotions, or “sensitive appetites,” which are desires for the products of perception.)

As such, and contra Nietzsche, the intellect is prior to the will. We cannot desire something we do not know.

If our knowledge is imperfect, our will is unconstrained to any one outcome. Example: world peace. Unless we know exactly what this “looks like” and how it must be attained, the will is free of any determination to any particular means. OTOH, where knowledge is perfect, as that 1+1=2 in normal arithmetic, the will is completely determined toward one end and cannot withhold its consent.

Hence, the freedom of the will is a direct consequence of the imperfection of knowledge.

I could go on quoting comments, but most of YOS’s comments were post length. Which is how we were all able to learn so much from him. Here’s another example in a post on St Anselm’s ontological argument, which I show as an image to show his attention to detail:

How about a discourse on instrumentation, crucial in the philosophy of science, from the 2016 post “How To Make An Atheist Cry“?

How about support for induction being our most important form of reasoning?

If you like that, you’ll love his thoughts on the post “There Can Be No Consistent Atheist System Of Morality Or Ethics”.

Like I said, I could go on all day like this. Thank God for that, because we won’t be meeting YOS anytime again soon.

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  1. JH

    I am sorry to hear this news. I only knew YOS through his comments and read his posts via the links referenced here. He sensibly shared his knowledge in statistics, philosophy, and religion on this blog. He respectfully corrected (Briggs’s) mistakes. Rarely, if any, insulting words. He was a gentleman.

  2. JH

    Rarely, if EVER, insulting words.

  3. Hagfish Bagpipe

    Sorry I won’t be seeing any interesting new comments from YOS. Or fascinating, educational, mysterious, obscure, wise, sharp, sardonically funny, and/or witty comments, either. Fortunately he did leave an impressive store here. Clicking on Briggs’ link to: ”There Can Be No Consistent Atheist System Of Morality Or Ethics” brings up a long chain of comments by YOS — many responding to my old band mate, Swordfish Trombone, who has a charming talent for bleating out all the wrong notes. Watch how YOS’ reply veers off, in his signature style:

    ”Swordfish Trombone: “… it’s why we can justify killing in a war (because if benefits our group).”

    Ye Olde Statistician: “Benefit: late 14c., benefet, “good or noble deed; helpful or friendly action,” also “a beneficial thing; advantage, profit,” from Anglo-French benfet (Old French bienfait), from Latin benefactum “good deed,” from bene facere, from bene “well” + facere “to do.” It was used as a verb since late 15c, meaning “to do good, to be of service.”

    Hence, to say that “X is good because it benefits our group” is to say that “X is good because it does good to our group,” which is begs the question.

    Does it do good to your group to eliminate all the untermenschen from it?

    How do you define your “group”? Evolutionary thinking once denied the possibility of altruism. Then they came up with the epicycle of “beneficial to the group.” But then they could not explain behavior that was beneficial to a biologically-unrelated group; so they extended “group” to include others. But of course, benefiting the unrelated does not necessarily assist the propagation of your genes. How does biological evolution recognize distinctions of what “our group” is? Is it the same mechanism by which we recognize different ages for “children”?”

    YOS seizes on that word, “benefit”, and works it over from different angles, asking provocative questions, drawing the reader into the process of thinking about things in subtle and creative ways. Quite wonderful stuff. And as JH notes, he always had a manner of equanimity, courtesy, and good cheer. A true gentleman scholar of the Olde Schule. We’ll miss you here, Mr. Flynn, rest in peace.

  4. Kip Hansen

    Briggs ==> A fan of Flynn’s SciFi. At my age, I may be meeting him sooner than I might like….him along with many of the greats of early SciFi who are now on the other side finding our what they go right and what they got wrong.

  5. Charles West

    Can you download the results of a comments search on “Ye Olde” to a file?
    If so that could be turned into an index of YOS comments and published as a web page.
    You have a wealth of commentary on this blog that would benefit from this level of analysis.
    I’ve been a lurker here for years and I’d be glad to help if only to see what I may have missed.

  6. Briggs

    Charles, Say, that’s a good idea. Let me look into it.

  7. Gunther Heinz

    Having once lived in Allentown, while working in Bethlehem, never once did I imagine any sort of intelligent life to be found in Easton.

  8. David Marwick

    I am sorry with hearing of YOS’s passing. I crossed swords with him often in years gone by, but he was always a good humoured apologist for modern(ist), Feserian, opinions.

    Rest in peace with your heroic wife, You Old Sage. Commiseration and sympathy to all his friends and family.

  9. cdquarles

    Sorry to hear this. RIP. Now I’ll have to find some spare change and get his books.

  10. Johnno

    RIP good sir. Your soul is remembered in my prayers.

  11. S. F. Griffin

    Of all internet commentators, on any and all forums I have come across, he was right at the tippy top as my favourite of all time. We are all poorer for the loss. God bless him.

  12. Joy

    RIP, now he really has the answer.
    I wonder if Dav knows of this news?

  13. swordfishtrombone

    Very sad to hear of the death of Michael F. Flynn, alias Ye Olde Statistician. My sincere condolences to his family and friends. He was unique and always a maddening adversary throughout numerous arguments on here.

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